We've been working with a behavioural specialist to deal with Alex's aggression. One of the first things she did was revamp our time-out procedure. At that point, we were using the kitchen table and often had to end up holding him down in order to get him to stay put. He would be throwing things and kicking us. It didn't take a specialist to see that it wasn't working.
We moved the time out to the landing in front of the basement door. It meant getting a lock on that door to prevent him from slamming it or bolting down into the basement. But it did make it a lot easier for him to just get up and leave. Which he does, repeatedly.
We were supposed to use a non-verbal redirection to send him back. Not touching him and not engaging with him, just pointing. This ended up with him slapping at our hands and ignoring us. It became a game and one which we couldn't possibly win.
So we modified the plan without consulting the specialist. (I should know better but I did it anyway.) We first tried holding him in the time out but I knew that wasn't a good solution. Next, we tried threatening to take away a favourite toy if he bolted from the time out. That worked but required a verbal interaction.
We met with the specialist yesterday and she pointed out the flaw in our thinking. If we threaten to take away a toy, then Alex is winning the battle of wills over his behaviour. We are teaching him that he doesn't have to behave without an external consequence (and since consequences in the outside world will never be consistent enough to be an effective deterrent, that's not good.)
So now we're going back to non-verbal redirection. She's warned us that it likely will be a game for awhile and he's likely to do everything in his power to get a reaction from us. But if we stick to the plan, eventually he will realize that his behaviour is non-functional.
I'll admit to still being skeptical. But if my thinking could handle the situation, we wouldn't be in this mess in the first place, so I'm going to trust someone else.